Iceland’s Kontinuum are an interesting band, starting in 2001 as an experimental metal project mixing doom, punk and dark atmospheric metal. The project expanded in 2010, and with the additional of a musician from a hardcore band and the recognition that there was room for various genre influences, the aim was stated of making “hypnotic and spiritual musical noise”.
“Earth Blood Magic” is different from the norm. I sense no constraint. Ambiance oozes out of every corner. It has one of the most magnetic starts I’ve ever heard. “Endgame” is a groove-laden and catchy opener. There’s no compromise on power. A positive drum beat accompanies a bright guitar line. One thing that’s noteworthy about this album is that vocals are only used when it’s necessary. Here, a distant voice, sounding like John Lydon in his Public Image Limited capacity, cuts in and tells us that we will burn in hell. It doesn’t stop the bright and cheery music. Yes, this is different.
“Steinrunnin Skògur” starts. Dark and sinister vocals cast a shadow on the irrepressible instrumental line. This is a marching post-metal style track. It conjures up a vision of military forces and dark forces. It’s very atmospheric. In fact it’s zen, mechanical, misty and mystical. “You like this” commented my wife as I listened in a state of near trance. She’s right. There’s such a nice rhythm, combining power and beauty. It ends quietly. There’s some lama chanting. “Moonshine” gets going. Now it’s oddly distorted. This dark metal track progresses on its way with a post-metal feel. Ambient and dark, it’s equally gripping and chilling. This band has an amazing ability to creep up and reach a climax. Those vocals continue to be used sparingly. It’s the instrumentals which create the vision, then the vocals come in like a warning. It can be nightmarish. We’re floating away from reality and “Stranger Air” fluidly furthers the dream. The drum paves a dark path. The floaty vocals have an air of Pink Floyd about them, but still more an affinity with the hazy world of Tiamat. The listener is in the middle of the dream. I hummed along to the languid tune. It’s like being guided over a mystical wave.
“Lightbearer” takes us away with its thrusting heavy beat. It’s all melodic. This is sharp and bright. The momentary vocals provide a shadowy touch, adding threat and vulnerability to the crisp and authoritative guitar sound, later re-appearing in deathly form. By contrast the playing is urgent, almost frenetic. With its bright yet threatening melody, this reminds me a lot of Windir. There’s emotion too. It’s an amazing blend. We experience another side of “Kontinuum”, and there are many, on “City”. The fast and forceful metal shows signs of punk but this is more experimental. Sounds creep in and out mysteriously, not least the vocals which as ever start from the back seat, cutting in to create disturbing images in this exotic metal charge. Energy and atmosphere abound. “City” is a meaty track, full of life, moodiness and twists and turns. It’s like an adventure in its expanse. Like all tracks, it’s like an adventure.
We hear the sound of marching. A distant and off-beat rhythm comes in, developing into a relentless beat. There’s an element of a Viking Warrior song in “Lỳs Milda Ljòs” but as ever it’s clouded so as not to be uniform. The mood changes again and after a patient section which recalls the swinging of a pendulum, the track returns to the thrusting beat and those cloudy vocals. The distant dream returns. “Red” is disturbing. Its slow beat and nightmarish quality again recalls Tiamat. “Can you fall in love with me before I die like you”: this grotesque line sums it up. “Red” is from the depth of the subconscious. Instrumentally, the beat is slow and mechanical but is it the beating of a living heart? Who knows? “Red” is another journey into the imagination. That instrumental work takes us over gently and takes us into the depths. There’s a chant-like quality to this track. The ambient “I Gjufradal” has a strong air of Tenhi about it. The piano accompanies soft Icelandic lyrics. Subtle sounds gather in the background. The piano returns and the violin appears, adding a deeply melancholic touch. The feeling is of sadness in nature. I sensed nature on “Lightbearer” but mostly we’re in a disturbed mind. Here there’s both. This is another side of Kontinuum, who are true to their word and allow us insight into a hypnotic and spiritual world. “World music” takes on a new slant.
Every so often a band comes along who has boundless imagination, and knows how to exploit it coherently. A couple of years ago I reviewed an album called “Shifting” by an Italian band called At The Soundawn. That album had those qualities. So does Kontinuum’s “Blood Earth Magic”. It has extraordinary creativity. It comes from the heart and from the soul. It is delightful and finely balanced, like a carefully prepared gourmet meal. It is sharp, dark, moody, edgy, light, heavy and dreamy and has a magic which invades the subconscious. There are so many elements and experiences in this album. “Blood Earth Magic” is a work of genius.
9.5 / 10 Andrew Doherty